Timber Frame vs Steel Frame
Although it comes down to personal preference, and there’s no definitive answer to the question of which building material is best, with steel becoming an increasingly popular material for construction, we’re looking at the pros and cons of both steel and timber to see how the two measure up.
Speed of construction
A timber frame for a building is much quicker to assemble than a standard brick and mortar house, which makes it a very popular option for many homeowners, but how does this stack up against a steel framed house?
As they are assembled in a similar way to timber frames, the process of putting up a steel frame should be just as quick, but the process can become more drawn out as it takes more tools and labour to attach each element together. On top of that, timber frames can be constructed by carpenters, or even used in DIY situations, whereas a steel frame requires steel fabricators to weld together the structure.
Environmental impact & sustainability
Environmental conservation is a significant factor for a lot of the population nowadays, and within the construction industry, the need for environmentally friendly materials is crucial. Timber and steel both have benefits and drawbacks when it comes to their environmental impact, so it’s important to thoroughly consider your options before making a decision.
Using a steel frame results in less deforestation than timber, which relies on both forests and the destruction of natural environments to make room for more plantations, however the other side of this argument is that as the need for timber increases, the demand for more forests also increases. This would benefit the environment in lowering CO2 levels in the air, and encourage ethical and sustainable use of forests.
Steel is thought to produce less waste than timber as steel frames are manufactured very precisely, whereas as timber is a natural product, there are some imperfections that render some of the wood unuseable. Steel, however, is a very energy intensive to create, with the production process leaving huge carbon footprints that are damaging the environment. The upside of this is that steel is 100% recyclable, so after the intensive creation process, the steel can be used and reused.
One final environmental consideration to be made is regarding the levels of thermal transfer of each material, and this is where debates usually occur. Some argue that metal structures provide better seals for windows and doors, so when paired with effective wall insulation, a metal frame would reduce heat loss from the windows and walls. However, others argue that the thermal transfer of steel is greater than timber, so a timber home would be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing the need for heating and cooling systems.
Accurately comparing costs on a like-for-like basis when looking at timber and steel framed houses is difficult, as there are a lot of variables that could alter the final cost of production. For instance, the cut of timber, the supplier and contractor used and whether the frame is pre-constructed or built from scratch will all bear an impact in the price of a timber framed building. However, that said, in general, you can always expect a timber frame to be more affordable than a steel frame as the construction process is much more labour intensive, so tradesmen will charge more to operate around a steel structure.
Steel is undeniably strong and durable, and comes completely protected from ants and termites that can destroy a timber structure. However, in coastal areas, the harsh weather and salty air can cause steel to rust and corrode.
Timber, on the other hand, will require protection against termites and other insects, but that shouldn’t put you off a timber frame. Timber is used time and time again because it is a strong and durable material that can last for hundreds of years, if the construction is good. Bear in mind, however, that altering the structure of a timber frame is very difficult, and should only be done after consulting a structural expert.
Hitchcock & King have been a leading supplier of high quality timber to London for over 40 years, priding ourselves on our high quality products, friendly staff and quick delivery times. Open a trade account with Hitchcock & King for even quicker access to our fast, reliable delivery service for all of our timber and building materials across London.